Favourite Releases of 2020

If there’s one positive about 2020, it was that I had ample time to listen to a lot of music. That being said, I still don’t check out new music like I did when I was younger. Hell, even just back in 2014, my year end list was huge (and thankfully most of it is still stuff I am listening to). These are the releases I enjoyed and listened to the most throughout the year. I narrowed it down to just ten albums and ten miscellaneous releases for simplicity, but there are plenty of honorable mentions. I’ve included links to each releases’ Bandcamp for ease of listening.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

AHNA – Crimson Dawn
ahna crimson dawn
The five year wait for AHNA’s death metal masterpiece, “Crimson Dawn” has finally ended, and it delivers the goods. Sinister, evil, and just fucking metal. The stenchcore and punk influences really play nice with the Autopsy and Bolt Thrower riffs. I’ll go as far to call this my favourite record of 2020.

Caustic Wound – Death Posture
caustic wound death posture
Grindcore featuring 3/4 of Mortiferum in the vein of Repulsion but with heavier production. Absolutely relentless and full of riffs, it’ll surely satisfy old school grind fans as well as metal fans who are usually apprehensive about the genre.

Ceremonial Bloodbath – The Tides of Blood
ceremonial bloodbath the tides of blood
Black/death metal that gets into war metal territory but never sacrifices the riff. Features members of Massgrave, AHNA, Radioactive Vomit, etc so it’s already rooted in tons of experience, no surprise it’s great. It’s the only thing this year that competes with AHNA in terms of how sinister it sounds.

Draghkar – At the Crossroads of Infinity
draghkar at the crossroads
Full disclosure, the frontman of Draghkar is my bandmate in Azath. But holy shit, this is a great slab of melodic death metal that never loses sight of the fact it’s still death metal. Plenty of Greek black metal influence too, and an insane amount of guitar solos courtesy of Kelly from Drawn and Quartered.

Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing
gorephilia in the eye of nothing
This band has always been on my radar, but now I can definitely say I’m a fan. Combining Morbid Angel riffs with the general heaviness of Finnish death metal, it was a must buy record for me this year.

Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
napalm death throes
It’s amazing how Napalm Death still manages to put out records that sound fresh but still like themselves. The increased amount of post-punk and noise-rock influences make for a dynamic album, while still giving us the grind we’d expect.

Necrot – Mortal
necrot mortal
Necrot’s sophomore album gives us more meat and potatoes death metal, but does it with all the right elements. With great sounding production and riffs galore, this Oakland power trio has earned every bit of hype they’ve got. The guitar solos really add a classy element on top of everything.

VoidCeremony – Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel
voidceremonty entropic
Weirdo death metal from Southern California that includes members that have been in bands like Ascended Dead. Features the Great Righteous Destroyer (StarGazer) on bass, who further adds to the progressive sound of VoidCeremony.

WAKE – Devouring Ruin
wake devouring ruin
Calgary’s WAKE finally went all in on the black/death metal direction they’ve been pushing on the last two records, and actually recorded a full 45 minutes. They hinted at some of their abilities of riding out parts and exercising musicality within, but they fully realize it here, and there’s really none of the previous grindcore elements present. They released an EP in the fall that is highly recommended if you like where they are going on this release!

Warp Chamber – Implements of Excruciation
warp chamber implements
This was recommended to me on the grounds that it’s similar to Blood Incantation, and with just 4 songs at 30 minutes, it looks like that on the surface. They have a very similar riffing style which also features a lot of variations on a theme, but they don’t pull back into any atmospheric sections or clean guitar parts. In other words, it’s a relentless riff experience.

Special mention to two Canadian post-punk bands, Spectres (Vancouver) and Paradise (Calgary). Both put out excellent albums this year, with Spectres releasing their 4th and most “produced” sounding record to date, where as Paradise’s debut album has a grungier approach. Do not miss Spectres – Nostalgia or Paradise – Pariah if you’re looking for something dreamy.

Runners up include: Black Curse – Endless Wound; Faceless Burial – Speciation; Goden – Beyond Darkness; Incantation – Sect of Vile Divinities; Intellect Devourer – Demons of the Skull; Internal Rot – Grieving Birth; Ofermod – Pentagrammaton; Primitive Man – Immersion; Question – Reflections of the Void; Siege Column – Darkside Legions; Ulthar – Providence; Undeath – Lesions of a Different Kind; Undergang – Aldrig I Livet; Venomous Skeleton – Drowning in Circles; Void Rot – Descending Pillars

Top 10 EPs/Splits/Demos/Comps of 2020

Anhedonist/Spectral Voice split 7″
anhedonist spectral voice
Two of the best death doom bands in the US, features an unreleased Anhedonist track that was recorded with their only album, and a new Spectral Voice song. The former was intended for an aborted split with Knelt Rote, where as the the latter gives us some really echoed out drums mid-song that sounds awesome.

Archagathus/Meat Spreader split 12″
archagathus meat spreader
Some of the most blast oriented Archagathus material to date, it sounds fantastic. Meanwhile, Meat Spreader sound like a combination of members’ former bands (Dead Infection and Squash Bowels) making for one mean slab of grindcore.

Atavisma/Void Rot split 12″
atavisma void rot
Void Rot’s album was pretty good but I was also enjoying this split quite a lot. The Minneapolis death/doomers teamed up with Atavisma from France who further supplement the style heard here with a little more weirdness (kind of like Swallowed but not quite as unhinged).

Auroch – Stolen Angelic Tongues EP
auroch stolen angelic tongues
After the incredible “Mute Books” LP, Auroch returns with 18 minutes of music which was initially intended for a split, but ultimately was released as a stand alone EP. The recording here is a little more cavernous sounding than before but musically they continue their odd path of technical occult death metal. They’re now a fully fledged five piece, and there seems to be a lot more depth here than ever.

Come to Grief – Pray for the End EP
come to grief pray for the end
Grief are one of the most important sludge bands of all time, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by how solid Come to Grief is. The name change is for the best, but it’s quite obviously in the same vein, and ultimately is a satisfying 3 songs of heavy sludge metal.

Lykotonen – Only Our Eyes Are Alive demo
lykotonen only our eyes
A project featuring many familiar faces of the Denver metal scene, this is a strange piece of black/death metal with members of Blood Incantation and Wayfarer. The “interlude” track in the middle is a really well executed piece of atmospheric industrial music, and it stands out to me a lot.

Oxalate/Perpetuated/Blood Spore/Vivisect split
oxalate blood spore 4way
Four bands from the mid-Atlantic US teamed up for this split, each showcasing a track of their brand of death metal. All these bands are relatively new, but all seem to have a solid understanding of death metal. I’m already a big fan of Oxalate and Blood Spore, so this was kind of a no brainer to check out for me.

Scheme – s/t demo
scheme demo
Somewhat of a supergroup of Canadian punk bands, featuring members of Napalm Raid, Massgrave, Decontrol, and Phane. No surprise here, it’s catchy as fuck d-beat, presented with a professional sounding recording.

Spectral Voice – Necrotic Demos comp
spectral voice necrotic demos
Another entry for Spectral Voice this year, this comp is just too killer not to mention. It includes their demo and their contributions to 4 different split 7″ releases, one of which is listed here. They’re the best modern death/doom band, and having all these non-album tracks on a single CD was an instant buy for me.

Thou – Blessings of the Highest Order comp
thou blessings
These Louisiana sludge freaks released two compilations of covers in 2020, with this one consisting entirely of Nirvana songs. I never realized how badly I needed to hear these songs adapted to the sludge style – it’s seriously an awesome interpretation. I enjoyed this so much I ended up listening to a lot of Nirvana throughout the year as a result.

Fireign – Valley of Unrest

Genre: Power/Thrash Metal | Label: Self Released
Location: St John’s, NL| Listen: YouTube

fireign valley of unrest

St. John’s, Newfoundland is an isolated island city in eastern Canada that’s more known for its folk music (and distinct regional accent, for what it’s worth) than heavy metal. Yet, Fireign’s “Valley of Unrest” was the first metal album by a Canadian band to grace my ears, and I live all the way in the western prairies. As fate would have it, I knew some Newfies who were friends of these guys, and since I was a young teen getting into thrash metal, they couldn’t help but shove this down my throat. Although I don’t listen to this as much anymore, I still enjoy revisiting it from time to time, as many of the lead melodies are still engraved in my mind.

I feel like every young metal head starts a band that tries to do a marriage of Metallica and Iron Maiden, and that’s a good generalization of what’s going on with Fireign’s debut full length from 2002. Looking at the photo of these guys, they’re clearly no older than 21, but surprisingly, the songs presented here show a lot of musical depth and maturity for guys just trying to combine thrash riffs with power metal melodies. “Killer in the Night” establishes the album with a pretty hooky lead melody over top a simple galloped 4 chord progression. This is a formula that is present throughout the album, with some basic song structures to contain these ideas. Although this sounds fairly unremarkable, the fact that I’m still remembering these melodic hooks almost two decades later is a testament to their staying power. The next two songs really milk this approach, but have enough hooks with the vocals that they’ve got their own identity. The lyrics are kind of cheesy, and they’re done in a raspy black metal style, but it works.

“Deadtime,” after its intro, is the thrashiest tune on this record, and gets into some real riffage beyond the chord progressions. “Iron Stake” takes a similar approach with more emphasis on thrash riffs, and includes a solo that would make Kirk Hammett’s eyes pop. The highlight of this record perhaps lies in the title track, as it is the longest track on the record, and we really get to hear the full abilities of lead guitarist Trevor Leonard. His sense of melody and composition within his solos are brilliant, and really gives this album the majority of its character. He gets into plenty of interesting motifs here, and there’s even a second lead guitar layered in behind, playing harmonies or even filling in the spaces between. The clean guitar outro track, “What Lies Within Us” further demonstrates Leonard’s brilliant playing, creating mood and atmosphere on its own.

Despite their young age, Fireign were wise enough to get this recorded professionally, everything standing out pretty well in the mix. The drums have a nice amount of reverb on the snare, and when things get thrashing, they can really be felt. Everything is well balanced, and the lead guitars sound great, which is crucial since they play such a major part throughout the songs.

Reviewing this album has made me question if I’d like it if I was introduced to it today as opposed to 18 years ago. Like I said, this is a pretty basic album in terms of where it’s coming from, and there are some moments that kind of drag, like the snare roll section in “Soldiers of War.” The cheesy lyrics could very well turn me off, and maybe I’d wish it was a little riffier if I wasn’t already into this. But dammit, this was impactful to hear in my youth when I was convinced there was nothing better than the big four thrash bands and I didn’t know how cheesy power metal was outside of the first Blind Guardian record. There are plenty of other Canadian bands I’d recommend over Fireign, but “Valley of Unrest” is still a great record as far as I’m concerned.


Iskra – European Tour Demo

Genre: Black Metal | Label: Black Raven Records
Location: Victoria, BC| Listen: Bandcamp

Iskra euro tour

Another veteran group of the west Canada metal/punk scene, Iskra are band from Victoria, BC that are rooted in crust punk that plays very Scandinavian influenced black metal. The “European Tour Demo” release came out between the six year gap that separated their second and third albums, and contains songs that appeared on both. It marks the first material recorded entirely by drummer Cody Baresich, and was done so at the band’s rehearsal space. The results are great, and it was a great layover release between albums when it dropped in 2012.

The A side of this recording contains 4 tracks that would later appear on the band’s third album, “Ruins.” These songs continue in the direction set forth by the previous “Bureval” record, and eschew most of the thrashy crust punk influence that was present on the self titled debut. Here we are met with riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Dissection or Marduk. There’s lots of tremolo picking around frosty black metal chord progressions, and they really flex their musicianship while doing so. Tracks like “Illegal” spiral around with the bass shining through nicely and further adding to the swirling feeling with some great lines in the outro of this song, as well as some pretty cool dive-bomb littered leads. There’s a pretty great sense of melody here as seen with the closing track “Traume” that balances out blistering speed of these songs. When this demo came out, it certainly added a lot of hype for the “Ruins” album, even though it would take another three years to come out.

Going back to the “Bureval” record, the B side of this demo contains three re-recordings of songs originally from that album. These tracks are kind of redundant in the sense that this is the third version of them, as “Bureval” also has its own demo version that was pressed to vinyl the year after this demo came out. However, these tracks do contain two different members (bassist JP and second guitarist Anatol), and the recording here is arguably better than the original album. “Kronstadt” stands out in particular with its sheer speed and catchy black metal riffs, but I could say the same of “Dubrovlag,” as it is also a choice song. The B side ends with a cover of Immortal’s “Cursed Realms of the Winter Demons,” and really fits in with the Scandinavian style of black metal that Iskra draws their sound from.

Despite being a demo, this is a really great sounding record. I gave praise to Baresich’s recording in a review for fellow Victoria band Six Brew Bantha, and although this is an earlier recording than that, it’s rather solid. Like I said, it’s arguably better than the “Bureval” recording, with the bass having a nice low end presence, and all the notes of the fast tremolo picking shine through from the guitars. The drums have a bit of a boxy sound to them at times, which is something that has much been improved in later recordings. This serves as an excellent bridge to the “Ruins” LP, which shows even further detail and improvement as far as production values go.

Even after 8 years, I quite enjoy this demo recording, and at 30 minutes, it’s more like a full length, especially with its quality recording. The Immortal cover being exclusive to it gives it that little extra something. There were an additional two tracks recorded with this demo – another new song and cover of Doom’s “Nazi Die” – which were later released on a split 7″. I often find myself listening to those tracks alongside this demo as they have the same production. This demo may not be essential for those who already have “Bureval” and “Ruins,” but it’s always stuck with me, especially because I gave it so many listens waiting for that third full length.


Six Brew Bantha – Blight

Genre: Grindcore | Label: To Live A Lie
Location: Victoria, BC| Listen: Bandcamp

six brew bantha blight

From the sleepy island city of Victoria comes Six Brew Bantha, a hyper fast grindcore band, who have made their mark on the international grindcore scene through relentless touring and plenty of recorded material. “Blight” is the third album from these Canadian grinders, and it continues their trajectory with improved production and more intricate songwriting. Seeing as Victoria is only a province over from me, Six Brew Bantha have been on my radar for many years, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching them grow across numerous live performances. I can safely say that “Blight” is the best Six Brew Bantha release yet.

Six Brew Bantha’s albums are all short, this one clocking in at under 18 minutes. There are only six tracks here, meaning they have longer duration than usual, but don’t let that fool you – all the elements that has made the band great in the first place are still present. “Blight” plays out as one continuous piece of music, as there aren’t really any stops between tracks (aside from flipping the record), and upon further listening, the band brings back certain riffs and plays out variations on them throughout the record. There is quite a lot of guitar wizardry going on here, with riffs being all over the place, incorporating fast dissonant chords, tremolo picked patterns, and just being overall chaotic. Seeing as the band consists of only a vocalist, guitarist, and drummer, the latter two are incredibly locked in together, with the drums being equally as bombastic and varied. There’s plenty of hyper speed blasting, but just an overall insane drum performance all around the kit. There’s breathing room here, like on the end of “They Talk, We Die,” with a little more space between notes, but it still sounds pretty fast. Things get pretty spastic at times too, with some incredibly tight start/stop riffs that seemingly come out of nowhere and lead to the next part. The vocal performance lives up to the intensity of the music, and has enough variation in different kinds of screams that they aren’t monotonous.

As much as the songwriting has improved on this record, the production on this record is noticeably better than their previous two LPs. Recorded by Cody Baresich (of Iskra), he has handled much of Six Brew Bantha’s recording in the past, but has shown a huge leap in his audio engineering skills. Despite having no bassist, the band sounds full and heavy, and there’s a lot of clarity between the guitars and drums. The clarity achieved with such high speed drumming is impressive, especially since there is no modern typewriter trigger sound to be heard. In preparation for this review, I ended up listening to the other full lengths after listening to this one, and although I thought those records sounded pretty decent when they came out, it is a stark contrast with what was achieved on “Blight.”

Fans of more recent grindcore bands like Death Toll 80k, Insect Warfare, and P.L.F. ought to look into Six Brew Bantha if they haven’t already. “Blight” is their best record to date, and hopefully it won’t be their last, as the band is currently on hold at the time of writing this review. They’ve long been a staple of the Canadian grindcore scene, and as such, I made sure to buy this record when I saw them perform it in its entirety around the time of release, and I’ll never forget that set, with this record serving as a great way to recall it.


Regurgitated Guts – Esophageal Mutilation

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Unspeakable Axe
Location: Winnipeg, MB| Listen: Bandcamp


Regurgitated Guts is yet another band featuring Dan Ryckman (of Archagathus and many more), this being one of his newer death metal projects. Prior to this, Dan and the two guitarists played in Sabbatory, a death/thrash band from Winnipeg that put out an incredible album in the vein of Morgoth/Pestilence. With Sabbatory seeming to die off, the death metal itch didn’t, and such Regurgitated Guts were completed with the inclusion of Joe Warkentin on bass, who collaborates with Ryckman on a regular basis. So far, they’ve only put out a single 7″, and the strength of the four songs contained on the “Esophageal Mutilation” EP shows a band that can create some truly excellent death metal.

Instead of the death/thrash direction of Sabbatory, Regurgitated Guts play death metal that’s very influenced by Finnish death metal. Traces of Convulse, Amorphis, Demigod, and many others can be found throughout the EP, especially in the vocals and the style of melody employed in both the guitar riffs and leads. The riffs have a lot of twisting finger patterns and tremolo picking, and are fairly nuanced. They have plenty to chew on, and they offer a variety of feels throughout the songs. The opening track, “Vermin Feast” offers a nice Finnish-Autopsy mashup as an intro, before getting into straight death metal. The title track has a stomping midsection that’s absolutely infectious, and concludes with some insane blastbeats. As one would expect, Ryckman’s vocals are incredibly sick on this recording, and he executes low death metal vocals in line with the Finnish influence. “Coffin Birth” especially has some character in this department, and that song also has a killer d-beat feel to it. Quite honestly, these songs sound like more detailed or elaborated Archagathus songs with that added Finnish melody, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Furthering the feel of old Finnish death metal, the recording is somewhat raw. If I’m not mistaken, the drums were recorded with minimal mics optimized in a position to get the best clarity. They actually sound really nice and natural, and still manage to be alive against the downtuned guitar and bass, which also sound purposely raw yet competently audible. The two sides must’ve been recorded in two different sessions, as the guitars sound slightly better on the B side. I think it’s perfectly fitting for this style of death metal, further showing the band knows exactly what they want.

There are a lot of great bands coming out of Winnipeg, and Regurgitated Guts has potential to be one of the premiere death metal bands in Canada. They need to get a full length out, as the 10 minutes of material presented here have left a strong impression. There’s zero bullshit in these 10 minutes, just proper Finnish influenced death metal.


Napalm Death – The World Keeps Turning EP

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Earache Records
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: Bandcamp

napalm death the world keeps turning

During Napalm Death’s death metal years in the early 90’s, Earache had them releasing singles, EPs, and other small releases between albums. During the writing of “Utopia Banished,” Napalm Death made sure to write a bunch of additional songs, something that wasn’t a problem, as they were on fire in the writing department, especially with the addition of new drummer Danny Herrera. Bassist Shane Embury has said something that he forgets how to play a lot of these extra tracks since they wrote so many, but that doesn’t mean these songs are just just discarded album material.

First and foremost, if you don’t like “Utopia Banished,” then the songs on this EP won’t do it for you either. Out of the three tracks, one is a re-recording from that album, and the other two are exclusive tracks. They opted to record the three songs at a different studio with a different producer than “Utopia Banished,” so the production is a little different. It’s a little more airy, especially with the guitars, but it’s not a glaring difference. The title tracks differs from the album version slightly – it contains a bit of an intro with some samples, and the backup vocals are a little more prominent. The song itself has a really cool death metal groove with blasting section in the middle, and is a classic song of the band’s death metal era.

The two exclusive tracks presented here are also rather enjoyable. “A Means to an End” has a pretty groovy UK death metal riff that’s got a nice amount of speed, but generally also has a lot of speed with interesting riff patterns that get into some punk territory too. Meanwhile, “Insanity Excursion” is a lot more straight forward, as it alternates between blasts and fast thrash beats for its 2 minute duration. Again, the riffs are interesting enough, but I’m sure a song like this was delegated to the “non album material” bin due to its simplicity.

Do you need this EP in your collection? Unless you’re a diehard Napalm Death fan that has to collect all their releases, it’s not something you need to hunt down. Thankfully, the two exclusive tracks are available on the extended edition of “Utopia Banished,” along with another 4 bonus tracks, making it a 21 track album. If you really want to hunt down the version of the title track that’s on this EP, it appears on the “Noise for Music’s Sake” compilation. I would certainly pick up the stand alone EP if I found it for cheap, as the artwork has always been striking, but I’m in no rush to hunt for it.


Incantation – Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Relapse Records
Location: New Jersey| Listen: YouTube

incantation deliverance

Here’s a little piece of history from the endless depths of American death metal. New Jersey’s most evil death metal band, Incantation, had just started dealing with Relapse records. They had reissued their classic “Entrantment of Evil” EP, and slapped a photo of the band’s new (and third) line up on it. A little later in ’91, Relapse put out the first recording of this line up, which was the band’s heaviest yet. “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies” is a mere two songs, with only one of them being new, but it was a glimpse of things to come, as this same line up would be featured on the “Onward to Golgotha” album.

Not only was this the first Incantation recording with Craig Pillard (vox/guitar) and Jim Roe (drums), it’s also the first recording they did at Trax East Studio in South River, NJ. This is important because both these members and this studio would be crucial to the sound of “Onward to Golgotha.” Likely because this was just intended to be a 7″, it’s a little more raw than the debut album, but it’s a better representation of Incantation’s sound than anything they had released previously. It’s definitely darker than the previous 7″, but more professional, with the kick drums being pretty well defined.

The A side features a new track, showcasing how dark Incantation’s songwriting was getting. “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies” enters gloomy territory with some doomy guitar parts that twist around with Sabbathy trills at their tail ends. The dark atmosphere is emphasized by Pillard’s inhumanly low death metal vocals, giving former vocalist Will Rahmer (of Mortician) a run for his money. The version of this song here differs from the LP version, as there’s a whole extra outro section on this 7″ version. The B side is a re-recording of one of the oldest Incantation tracks, “Profanation.” A few versions of this already exist, and to no surprise, this is one of the most brutal ones yet. This one also appears on the debut record, but is pretty much in final form outside of recording quality at this point.

Despite being a mere two songs, this 7″ still gets the odd spin from me, as it’s without a doubt the heaviest pre-album material by Incantation. Casual fans of the band probably don’t need to hear this, but if you’re into hearing early works by some of the most important death metal bands, it’s worth hearing if not just for historical context. Otherwise, you’re better off just getting “Onward to Golgotha,” as it contains the penultimate versions of all the early Incantation material.


Archagathus/Terror Firmer split 10″

Genre: Grindcore | Label: Grindfather
Location: Winnipeg, MB/Italy| Listen: Bandcamp

archagathus terror firmer

More Archagathus? Of course! It’s easy to binge on their releases, and seeing as they’ve done splits with so many different bands, a few of them are bound to end up on the Archives. This is a split 10″ from 2016 with an Italian grind band called Terror Firmer. Much like many of the other bands Archagathus has done splits with, this is the only Terror Firmer material I’m familiar with.

For Archagathus’ side, they unearthed 11 tracks that were recorded in 2010 that average about a minute in length. If you’re familiar with what Archagathus sounded like in the few years prior to their “Canadian Horse” LP, this fits into that era pretty well. It’s a little more on the raw side, but not as raw as the real early stuff. The songwriting is a little more punk oriented than the later death metal influenced stuff, going pretty hard on polka thrash beats, d-beats, but of course keeping plenty of blast beats too. This recording was done entirely by Dan, but then he and Joe did all the vocals in 2015. As usual, there’s a variety of different harsh vocal styles that change almost every line, with groans, growls, and pitch shifted gurgles. They go full on d-beat at points, adding in simple Discharge solos, like in the closer “Sad System.” The songs are pretty much standard affair for the band, although the rawness of them leaves a little to be desired, especially when compared to the production on material that was recorded later on.

The production is clearer on the Terror Firmer style, and their buzzy distorted bass tone is the first thing that stands out to me. It’s surprisingly well separated from the guitar tone, and the drums are pretty clean. There’s also quite a lot of punk influence on these Terror Firmer songs, and they employ a good amount of thrash influence too, giving these songs a decent amount of dynamic. Like Archagathus, they employ a lot of different vocal styles, but it seems to be done by just one person. Some of his higher vocals kind of suck, but he’s competent otherwise. The songs themselves, although full of energy, aren’t particularly memorable, and I haven’t bothered checking out any more Terror Firmer. Their side includes a cover of Repulsion’s “Black Breath” which is very well suited for their bass tone, and it’s the highlight of their side. Their side ends with a noisy songs that’s perhaps trying to emulate Napalm Death’s obsession with Swans, but it really misses the mark, and just seems like a waste of 4 minutes.

Overall, this isn’t a split you need to hear unless you’re a big fan of Archagathus. Their side features the usual affair for them in terms of songs, but is a little more raw due to it being an older recording. The Terror Firmer side is decent, but could’ve been better, especially without the noise track at the end. As I’ve said in other reviews for Archagathus, having more than just their side of a split 7″ on a single releases is nice, as there’s definitely more to enjoy on the 10″ format.


Archagathus/Meat Spreader split LP

Genre: Grindcore/Goregrind | Label: Behind the Mountain
Location: Winnipeg, MB/Białystok, Poland| Listen: Bandcamp

archagathus meat spreader

Grindcore, mincecore, goregrind. If those three terms mean anything to you, then read ahead, as this split between Canada’s Archagathus and Poland’s Meat Spreader will likely interest you. Archagathus’ side is their only release for 2020, which is kind of bizarre when you consider this is also their 70th release. Meanwhile, Meat Spreader is a new goregrind band that features members of two of Poland’s most well known bands in the genre, Dead Infection and Squash Bowels. Both bands have teamed up here for a 12″, giving us a little more material than the usual 7″ duration.

Winnipeg’s Archagathus need to introduction, but if you haven’t heard them yet, their material on this split is an excellent representation of the band. This recording sees them as a power trio, with the usual suspects of Dan and Joe handling guitar and bass respectively, and of course splitting up the vocals. This recording also features Andy from Nak’ay on drums, who have also released a split with Archagathus (which I just recently reviewed). These are some of the blastiest songs in the band’s discography so far, as they pretty much eschew the typical mincecore polka beat. It does show up on tracks like “Disgusting Thing,” but only for a brief moment. There’s a lot of focus on brutality here, with plenty of death metal style riffing and punchy punk riffs. The dual vocal attack between Dan and Joe is absolutely disgusting, with lots of pitch shifters, but they still do a variety of voices with it. This is also some of their best sounding material, as Dan’s recording ability has been constantly improving over the years, and everything sounds well balanced.

This split is the only material I’ve heard from Meat Spreader, but as a fan of their previous bands, it’s pretty much what I expected to hear. The vocals sounds exactly like Dead Infection’s “A Chapter of Accidents,” with usage of pitch shifters, and the songwriting isn’t too far off either. However, these songs aren’t as much of a blasterpiece as either Dead Infection or the Archagathus side of this split. There are plenty of blasts, but there’s enough switching up between punk and thrash beats. I always liked Squash Bowels’ distorted bass tone, and no surprise, it’s also present in Meat Spreader. The band flexes some musicality into the song “Sound of Knife Entering Flesh” by slowing things down briefly and throwing some lead guitar into the mix. It’s a much needed breath of fresh air among all the brutality. Their side of the splits ends with a Regurgitate cover, and it fits in perfectly with the rest of the material here.

Archagathus never fails to make my year end lists, and despite only having one release this year, this split with Meat Spreader is definitely a stand out release for 2020. Both bands bust out some ridiculously vile grindcore, complete with low tunings and pitch shifters, and present their material with quality production values. Each band contributes about 9 minutes per side, so it still goes by fairly fast, but considering the fact that most of Archagathus’ releases are simply split 7″ records, anything in longer format is worth looking into.


Encoffinate – Cimmerian Corpse Dungeon

Genre: Death/Doom Metal | Label: Caligari Records
Location: Vancouver, BC| Listen: Bandcamp

encoffinate demo

Encoffinate are another band from Vancouver that contains members of many other active bands in the metal underground. With members of Radioactive Vomit, Deathwinds, Ceremonial Bloodbath, AHNA, Grave Infestation, Temple of Abandonment, etc, it’s a safe bet that the Encoffinate demo will be worth listening to. Indeed, it is one potent slab of death/doom metal that sounds like it’s trying to crawl out of the depths of hell.

There are many approaches to death/doom, and Encoffinate sound like they’ve taken the Celtic Frost path that classics like Winter took and pushed to the limits of slow metal. There are some obvious Celtic Frost inspired riffs, and there’s an abundance of Tom G Warrior-isms in the vocals, as put forth by drummer/vocalist KS. Just listen to the opening of “Autointerment,” which has a big “HEYYYYYYYYYY” among other familiar sounding death grunts. This is comparable to Divine Eve/Crimson Relic at times, sans punk beats, but they do incorporate the “goat beat” instead to give some of those parts a quicker pulse.

Despite some of the riffs having a very death metal feel, complete with tremolo picked patterns across phrases, the drums pace these parts in ways to keep the tempo feeling slow. Furthermore, we can see more use of musicality with the haunting melodies in the opening of track “Black Skies of Terror” that features some really gloomy Autopsy inspired parts. Again, this song comes into a riff that could very well be featured on a blasting death metal record, but the drums hold back to create mood and feel. This song is probably the most Celtic Frost sounding on the recording, as some of these riffs wouldn’t feel out of place on “Morbid Tales.” Can we also appreciate how disgusting KS’ vocals are? They’ve always been the master of various vocal styles in various bands, and they absolutely nail the vocal performance here. Between bestial growls and Tom G Warrior impressions, they are all over the place vocally on this recording.

“Cimmerian Corpse Dungeon,” being a demo, does not have the most polished production, but it’s very listenable, and by no means raw. The guitar and bass tones have enough separation between the two. Even the drums are awesome, with the double kick parts cutting through fairly well without any excess amount of click. That being said, the toms leave a little to be desired, but again, this is a demo, and I’m sure they’ll have more impact if they ever do a proper full length.

This demo stands out among all the members’ other projects as unique, as it’s not fast blasting death metal, bestial war metal, or completely desolate funeral doom. They’ve come together to create something that just punches you right in the gut with the most deliberate of pacing. If you love death/doom but want something that’s more brutal as opposed to ethereal, Encoffinate does a great job of that on this 23 minute, 4 song demo. These tracks are being released as a split 12″, which hopefully means a full length is in the works.